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How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking in the Car

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking in the Car
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-3 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

You’ve got an extremely long drive ahead. You’ve got young children to look after and a partner that insists on playing truly horrendous music in the car. Making it even worse though, is your dog who’s in the back barking. Not just a quiet growl, but a penetratingly loud bark. The only positive is that he’s drowning out the sound of your partner's music. There’s just no telling him to quit the barking, he seems adamant on making as much noise as possible whenever he gets into a car. It’s the same when you take him to the vets, or to visit friends and family. 

Training him to stop barking in the car will give you some well-deserved peace and quiet. It will also mean you don’t have to walk him in the rain and the cold just because of the havoc he’ll cause if you drive him.

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Defining Tasks

Training your dog not to bark in the car is relatively straightforward. You’ll first need to identify why he barks, then you can set about remedying it. You’ll have to take a number of measures to keep him calm and subdued in the car. You’ll also need to use obedience commands to teach him to be quiet. If he’s a puppy, his brain should be malleable and you can expect results in as little as a week. If he’s older and had this noisy habit for many years then you may need up to three weeks to fully kick the habit.

Training him to be quiet will mean you can drive safely. You won’t be distracted by your barking dog, you’ll actually be able to concentrate on the road.

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Getting Started

Before you can get to work, you’ll need to gather a few things. Treats or his favorite food will be essential. You’ll also need some toys and possibly some food puzzles. These will help keep him distracted when he’s in the car.

Find 10 minutes a day you can set aside for training, when you won’t be distracted by a noisy household. You’ll also need to have access to a car to practice in over the next few weeks.

Once you’ve got the above, you can get to work!

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The Deterrence Method

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1

Spray bottle

When you’re in the car, have a passenger or someone in the back squirt water near his face when he barks. This quick, sharp spray will quickly signal to him that barking won’t be tolerated.

2

Collars

You can also get collars that are automatically triggered when he barks. The citronella collar, for example, will emit an unpleasant spray near his face. Simply fit the collar before you get in a car. This will further deter him.

3

‘NO’

Often, consistent disapproval from an owner can help stamp out an unfavorable habit. Whenever he barks, in a clear and firm voice say ‘NO’ in his direction. Don’t terrify him, but make sure he knows you mean business.

4

Cover his crate

If you put him in a crate in the car and he starts barking, try putting a towel or blanket over it. If he can’t see what’s going on, he won’t get so worked up and he won’t bark. When he stops barking you can then remove it and give him another chance to stay quiet.

5

Positive reinforcement

While deterring him with the measures above, also reward him with treats and attention when he doesn’t bark. This combination of positive and negative reinforcement will swiftly get the message across.

The Distraction Method

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Exercise

Before you go on a drive, make sure he’s had plenty of exercise. If he’s restless then he may bark simply to release some pent up energy. Give him a long walk, or throw a ball for 15 minutes for him. A tired dog is a quiet dog.

2

Meet all his needs

Make sure before a long drive in particular that he’s done everything he needs to, the toilet for example. If he’s been to the toilet and he’s got access to water and a towel or blanket to lie on, then he won’t bark to signal to you that he needs something.

3

Food puzzles

When you get in the car, give him a food puzzle. You can buy puzzles that will keep him distracted and preoccupied for hours. If it’s got his favorite food inside then all his attention will be focused on that.

4

Toys

Have someone else play gently with him in the car. He may simply want attention. Don’t get him so worked up he’s jumping around, but play a little tug of war and stroke him. This will stem any and all attention-seeking barking.

5

Down time

Once you’ve played around for a while, have some down time. Talk in a quiet and soft voice. Dogs mirror their owners behavior, so if someone in the back can stroke him gently this should subdue him. It will also prevent any barking that’s a result of him being scared to be in the car.

The ‘Quiet’ Method

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Monitor

Look for situations that naturally cause him to bark. These could be when you’re putting together his meals, or securing him to his leash for a walk. You’re going to use these moments to teach him to be quiet, a command that will come in extremely useful in the car.

2

‘Quiet’

Put him in the bark-inducing situation and then wait patiently. As soon as he stops barking, issue a ‘quiet’ command, giving it in an upbeat but clear voice. You can use any word or phrase you like.

3

Reward

As soon as you’ve given the command, give him a tasty treat and some praise. The better the treat the more likely he’ll be to follow your instruction again. Now practice this for 10 minutes every day.

4

Use in the car

Now put him in the car and head off down the road. As soon as he barks, issue your ‘quiet’ command. Then when he does go quiet, throw him a treat. If he won’t follow your command in the car, go back to practicing in the house for a few more days.

5

Lose the treats

When he finally gets the hang of it, you can stop giving him tasty rewards. Use the command every time and he’ll soon realize what is and isn’t expected of him in the car. The barking will eventually subside.

By James Barra

Published: 11/16/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Codie and Cooper

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Golden Retriever

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21 Months

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Question

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My two boys start barking in the car after about halfway for there walk. Once we get there it stops and on the way back they are so quiet. I am the only one in the car and as it is an estate car I can’t throw treats and have contact with them. It’s very distracting and stressful.

June 30, 2022

Codie and Cooper's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gillian, I would start by teaching both dogs what Quiet means. Do this at home, unrelated to the car first. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, I would practice Quiet and Down- Stay in the car when it's off and you can carefully hand a treat to pups instead of tossing them. Use something like freeze dried liver treats that are easy for pups to swallow and not slimy or need to be crunched into a lot of pieces, to keep things clean. Put a towel under pups if needed too. Third, Practice the Quiet command whenever pups bark in other scenarios. When pup gets quiet, reward in real life scenarios, but if pup keeps barking, use a remote training collar or bark collar to enforce pup being quiet. Correcting the barking with low level stimulation or vibration - if pup will respond to vibration. Once pup understands that Quiet means stop barking and that the correction is a correction for not obeying quiet and continuing to bark, then the correction and quiet command can both be used to enforce quiet rides in the car. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 30, 2022

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Charlie

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Golden Retriever

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6 Years

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My dog Charlie has a problem barking in the car. I have another Golden Retriever Georgie, who is so quiet but Charlie gets into the back of the car, and barks until we get to the venue. When we have the walk he is very good and when we are driving home he is quiet as a mouse. I can’t get him to stop the barking….

May 19, 2022

Charlie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would start by crating pup in the car or getting pup used to riding in a car harness that's tethered safely to the middle row seat or floorboard, then I would try the following protocol with pup in a crate or harness in the car, and the car parked. Once pup can handle being calm in the car while parked, then practice the protocol with the car only driving up and down your driveway (or similar location if your driveway is hard to maneuver). Once pup can stay calm then, practice short drives around your neighborhood or parking lots. I would then gradually work up to further locations and highways slowly from that point, only adding a more stimulating drive gradually as pup is improving and shows they are ready for the next level of stimulation. Once pup can handle these types of drives, start going on actual outings with pup, but choose pleasant and calm locations for there, where you practice obedience commands like Heel when you get there - so pup anticipates something good but expects something calmer too; opposed to pup expecting a highly arousing dog park, scary vet or grooming visit, or exhilarating dog sport every car trip. To do all of this safely, you will need to recruit a second person once you are needing to drive for the training, so one person can train while the other concentrates on the road only. I would start by teaching pup "Quiet". While in the car, you can instruct pup to be Quiet, and the second car rider/trainer reward with a small treat passed through the crate or handed to pup tethered in one spot in the harness, like freeze dried liver that's easy to eat and digest, when pup obeys and stays quiet. When pup continues crying or stops but starts immediately again, then you can interrupt the crying like James does in the third training video. Ideally, all of this would be done with the help of a professional trainer who has experience with this tool and this type of arousal. For the purpose of desensitizing pup to the car, you will need to work pup up to trips in the car again very slowly, otherwise pup might be too overwhelmed to succeed. You want car rides to become boring in the end - not something pup dreads but also not something where pup is allowed to work themselves up to such a high level of arousal without interruption. Interrupting pup early in their arousal, when pup is still in a state of mind to learn, will probably be far more effective than waiting until pup is super worked up, which is another reason why I recommend starting with pup just being in the car without it moving yet. Pup might get to the point where they can simply lie down in the car the whole ride without needing to be confined; although the harness long term is much safer - like a seatbelt, but I wouldn't ever let pup roam around your vehicle or stick their head out the window. Lying down and staying calm is how pup needs to be in the habit of always riding. Quiet method for teaching Quiet: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark To properly fit an e-collar, check out this video on their use and fit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Training: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3j882MAYDU You may find that just practicing the Quiet method and riding in a car harness, and easing into trips gradually, is enough to solve the problem without using an interrupter like the e-collar. If that's so, that's great, no need to use additional tools. Just stick with the positive reinforcement only. It depends on the level of arousal and the specific dog and their persistence what works best usually. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 19, 2022


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